Ecuador: country overview

Ecuador may be small but this South American country is huge in history, adventure culture and architecture. In a single day you can drive from the Amazon Basin to the Pacific coast, passing glaciated Andean volcanoes.

Ecuador may be small, the second-smallest country in South America, but it is packed full of amazing landscape that begs to be explored. Its amazing diversity is thanks to the equator that divides the country up. In effect, Ecuador is a country divided into two by the equator – it lies both in the southern and northern hemisphere.

In a single day you can drive from the Amazon Basin to the Pacific coast, passing glaciated Andean volcanoes. Trek through tropcial cloud forests or visit an indigenous market and pick up some colourful jumpers at the Otavalo market – the location where jungle traders bought and sold their wares since pre-Inca times.

Or simply mingle with the locals, enjoy the colours and traditional costumes and highland markets.

The country’s colonial archtecture is outstanding in Cuenca and Quito and both are Unesco World Heritage sites.

The most popular tourist destination in Ecuador is Baños – the gateway into the jungle via Puyo and Mishahualli with amazing views of the upper Amazon. People flock to  Baños to soak in its baths, mountain ride, rent a quad-bike, eye up volcanoes and in the evening party the night through with fine dining and an eclectic night life.

If you love wildlife and nature, pack your binoculars and spy on howler monkeys in the Oriente jungle, and pick out orchids, birds and all manner of exotic and even bizarre flora and even stranger insects. Don’t forget the Galapagos islands where all sorts of strange and wonderful animals swim, hop or mill around without a hint of shyness.

But it doesn’t have to be this sedate. Climb mountains or trekk across the Quilatoa loop, go surfing and and enjoy a beachside horse ride.

Did you know…

Ecuador is among the seven mega-diverse countries in the world. You can find almost 1,600 species of birds in the continental area and about 38 species in the Galapagos, 25,000 species of plants, 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterflies.

Places to  Explore

Sierra

This is home to the Andes, a series of mountains that run through the centre of Ecuador. The highest peak is 600m (19,685ft) and the landscape is full of volcanoes, half of which are active.

Oriente

Located east of Sierra, the Oriente wet lowlands is covered by dense jungle, the Oriente has distinguished by a complicated maze of rivers that carry water from the Andes to the Amazon river. Thanks to its climate the region is brimful of biodiversity.

Costa

Here on Ecuador’s Pacific coast is where you will find lush tropical forests, sandy beaches and Eucador’s commercial capital Guayaquil.

Galapagos Islands

Survey after survey has shown that the Galapagos Islands, an archipelaog that  straddles the equator off the coast of Ecuador, are a dream desintation for holidaymakers. Wildlife diversity here is phenominal and perhaps it is no surprise that this is where Charles Darwin found the inspiration to come up with his theory of evolution.

The entire archipelago is a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site and most people will hop on a boat to get close to the marine wildlife and check out the volcanic landscape. Highlights include giant tortoises, seals and iguanas, the white sand beach at Tortuga Bay and volcanic landscape at Lava Tunnel and the Galapagos National Park Visitor Centre,  San Cristóbal

Useful links

Guide to Ecuador

Ecuador National/Public Holidays

Ecuador Tourist office and other useful addresses